Voices of Trees: Steven Finch

Burdiya Karri

Our guide left facts in the air
that my memory cannot touch

their eyes saw this poem

stepping up onto a log to explain
all trees but this Burdiya Karri were leveled by men,
they left one,
so its ancient seeds
could explain into trees

King Karri, the Wadjela guide called it,
But our Nyoongar guide called it
Burdiya Karri. Affection hung, sadness fell,
and together we breathed.

this is a biodiversity hotspot, which means
we have thousands of native species
on Nyoongar boodja.
But for thousands more, precariousness hangs

the rain touched us
we were still

I have heard Elders who speak of waking up
their language their culture their boodja

Sometimes poetry feels like sleeping –
memory always repeats the dream

We saw faces in the trees
on the hill of spiders
and heard Nyoongar Dreaming –
connected to the ghosts of gone species

we have strayed from flame too often
these trees need to burn to explain
into life – an essence, released, a longing

there is no comfort in the naming of things
but – everybody clapping on the one and the three

“We need to measure the trunk to understand its age”
so we linked arms, encircled
Burdiya Karri,
and counted.

My face against the wet bark
we are sixteen arms
this one is over 400 years old
Lick bark
wake up, dark-lit, sticky mouthed,
with hand on heart

when I was younger I thought trees let you
access heaven, not by climbing
but – as a rhyme does –
welcome you into a kingdom of rhythms
everybody clapping on the one and the three
this tree, these flames,

When the trees are too young
They do not grow back from being burnt
you did not grow back

some memories I wish to sink my face into
or – speaking plainly – to wake up

Text and image by Steven Finch. Audio by Britta Jorgensen

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